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The changing world of multimeters

Digital multimeters (DMM) are the most commonplace piece of test equipment on the workbench or in the maintenance bag. But for how much longer will it be the engineers go-to test tool?

The measurement of voltage and current is one of the most basic electronic activities and increasingly these measurements can be made with multi-function instruments which are gradually appearing in design labs and production rooms.

Most engineers will have used an oscilloscope to measure voltage or current at sometime. So scope suppliers recognised this and for some time now they have offered scopes with precision DMM capabilities.

More recently this has gone a stage further with a bigger beast, the multi-function instrument. This can have as many as six different test functions in a single instrument.

So one, admittedly expensive, box can give you a scope, spectrum analyser, DMM, logic analyser and even an arbitrary function generator and protocol analyser, if you are prepared to pay for all the options. This will cost you over £10,000.

But adding a DMM to your scope can be a lot cheaper, and it can even be handheld too. 
Examples are Fluke’s ScopeMeter range, Keysight U1600 and Scope Rider from Rohde & Schwarz. Yokagawa’s ScopeCorder and Tektronix THS700 also add precision power measurement to an oscilloscope.

You can even get a 7½-digit DMM as a PXI Express card, if you have chosen the modular test route. So there is no need any more to look for the trusty DMM, chances are the instrument you are using will also do the job.

Of course no one will throw away a perfectly functional DMM. Keysight’s calibration labs are still servicing meters which are over a quarter of a century old.

The options are changing and over time DMMs are less likely to be replaced by a standalone meter.
 But if your budget cannot stretch to a new all singing and dancing instrument you can pick up a true RMS multimeter for as little as £200.

The good news is that the simple multimeter could become a throw-away commodity, and if it does perhaps we haven’t seen the end of the DMM story.
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